Aesthetic Engineering Revisited

9/7/18, 11:41 AM

Just yesterday, I discovered Orchestration is an aesthetic engineering historical existence theorem, to add to architecture, industrial design and digital content development. Orchestration has a technical definition in computer science, and an artistic definition in music, the one of greater interest here. One succinct definition: Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra (Wikipedia). Orchestration is an advanced part of the study of Composition, one that is also a branch of aesthetic engineering, where Aesthetic Engineering, AE is defined as integrating emotional engagement with logistical robustness.

The reason this matters a great deal, and to more than musicians, composers, and listeners is our society is becoming increasing transaction and consumption based, and as such more quantifiably oriented. Unfortunately, anything longer than short term happiness is more based upon quality than upon quantity. Aesthetics, originality, creativity, curiosity and innovation all contribute mightily to meaning and well being, but are not for the most part quantifiable. Although many publish findings attempting to quantify these intangibles, to my mind are of questionable scientific validity because they are often lacking repeatability and specificity, the two basic tenets of good science. 

Culture and the emotional relevancy required for emotional engagement for example, are more based upon intangibles than quantifiables. This is where aesthetic engineering integrates and balances between the logistically quantifiable and emotionally relevant qualitatively intangibles. 

This balancing act has been going on for millennia, although AE has begun to be taught in the 21st century.  In 2000, when first teaching Aesthetic Engineering at Cogswell Polytechnical College, it was was defined as combining the emotional relevance of the arts, with the technical robustness of engineering. I introduced this topic because web-based content was not very emotionally relevant. It tended to be either emotionally engaging or not crashing, but not both, causing me to search for historical examples where engineering and art were successfully coupled. I found two strong compelling existence theorems, Architecture and Industrial Design. 

It appeared Ancient Architects discovered how to design beautiful buildings that did not fall down when it rained, and European Sports Car Industrial Designers managed to bring to market, extremely high performance motor vehicles that were also gorgeous. I wondered why the Internet had not spawned similar marriages by 2000, but have since realized that the internet was a relative youngster then, and these things can take a lot of time.  At that time, while advancing from lecturer to dean, I was able to convince the then college president, that we should offer Aesthetic Engineering as a core requirement in a digital arts degree program. This was a one year survey course for seniors. Now almost 20 years late the web has become far more emotionally engaging and technically robust, which is important as without emotional engagement, there is no emotional relevancy.  Most of the world does not care much about intellectual relevancy, only about emotional relevancy.  

Aesthetic Engineering has been addressed through several SVII programs and postings:

Innovators’ Showcase! – July 18th 2012: 

Recap: High Tech x High Fashion (SV’s New Collection!) December 5th 2012

Innovation Vitality to deliver critical innovation initiatives?) December 4th 2013

Liberal Arts in a Digital Age via Entrepreneurial & Engineering Thinking  October 25, 2015

Aesthetic Engineering July 26, 2017

As innovation advocates, try to balance meaning with money and relevancy with quantity, You may even find that participating in making your offerings more emotionally relevant to your customers results in more stable long term quantifiable results as well.